Public Health Nutrition

Public policies

Use of FAO food balance sheets to estimate the potential ability of novel folate-enriched eggs to increase the folate supply in European Union countries

Tony Sheehya1 c1 and Sangita Sharmaa2

a1 School of Food and Nutritional Sciences, University College Cork, Republic of Ireland

a2 Department of Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Abstract

Objective European governments have yet to introduce mandatory folic acid fortification of foods for neural tube defect prevention because of uncertainty about the long-term safety of high intake of folic acid. Novel folate-enriched eggs have been proposed as offering a practical way of increasing intake of natural folates, which do not have the same safety concerns as synthetic folic acid. Our objective was to estimate the potential increase in folate supply that could occur in European Union (EU) countries if normal eggs were replaced by folate-enriched eggs.

Design FAOSTAT data on daily per capita availability of eggs were linked to mean folate concentrations of un-enriched and folate-enriched eggs from three representative feeding trials from the recent literature.

Setting Data were collated in Microsoft Excel.

Subjects The study used food balance sheets for Europe for 1961–2003 and for twenty-six individual EU countries for 2003.

Results There has been little variation in egg supply in Europe over the past 40 years, with eggs providing only about 1·3–1·6 % of total energy. In 2003, the average per capita egg supply across twenty-six EU countries was 32·8 g/d, equivalent to a little over half an egg. Even if the folate concentrations of all eggs across the EU were increased two- to threefold, per capita folate supply would increase only by about 25 μg/d.

Conclusions At current enrichment levels, the availability of novel folate-enriched eggs will have little impact on folate supply in EU countries. In the absence of mandatory fortification, additional natural folate sources are needed urgently.

(Received April 28 2010)

(Accepted July 01 2010)

(Online publication August 31 2010)

Correspondence

c1 Corresponding author: Email t.sheehy@ucc.ie

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